Press Releases

    GA/SPD/289
    12 October 2004

    Fourth Committee Chairman Says Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Have Potential for Implementation of Millennium Declaration, Sustainable Development

    He Hails Exciting Developments of Past Year as Delegates Begin General Debate on Peaceful Space Exploration

    NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- The peaceful uses of outer space could contribute to implementation of the Millennium Declaration as well as declarations on sustainable development and the bridging of the information gap, Kyaw Tint Swe (Myanmar), Chairman of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), said this morning as that body began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

    He said the past year had seen exciting new developments in space exploration, with some countries indicating their intentions to return to the Moon and opening the way for human flight to Mars, of which impressive photographs and evidence of water had been received. The year also marked the twentieth anniversary of the “Moon Agreement”, which called for the freedom of scientific exploration and for the Moon’s use for the benefit of all humankind.

    Adigun Ade Abiodun (Nigeria), Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, introduced that body’s report, saying that among its accomplishments, had been agreement on five United Nations treaties and five sets of legal principles that collectively established the international legal framework for space activities. The Outer Space Committee had also been instrumental in organizing three international conferences on the exploration and peaceful use of outer space, the most recent one being the Third United Nations International Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), held in 1999.

    He said that “The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development” adopted by that Conference included actions on: the protection of the Earth’s environment; support for disaster management; promotion of global health and education; protection of the space environment; and the strengthening of space activities in the United Nations system. Implementing those actions would contribute greatly to human development and welfare.

    In the ensuing debate, Iran’s representative recalled that international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space had pursued two main goals:

    --   to promote the use of space technology in solving regional and global problems; and to further strengthen the capability of Member States, particularly developing countries, in the use of space-related technologies for economic, social and cultural development. In that respect, space science and technology could assist

    --   in risk assessment, as well as mitigation of and preparedness in natural disaster management. It could also assist in achieving satisfactory results in the efficient management of natural resources, particularly water.

    He said that one of the initial mandates of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, established in 1971, had been to assist people from developing countries to acquire the knowledge, skills and practical experience necessary for their application. However, many countries still lacked the human, technical and financial resources required to conduct even the most basic space-related activities.

    Other speakers stressed the importance of regional cooperation in using space-based technologies for environmental protection. Kazakhstan’s representative mentioned the importance for Central Asia of airborne dissipation of salt from the Aral Sea and of the effects of nuclear testing, and called in that regard for much more urgent international attention and multilateral cooperation.

    Also making statements were the representatives of Burkina Faso and China.

    The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday 12 October, to continue its debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. It is also expected to take action on draft proposals regarding decolonization questions.

    Background

    Taking up consideration of peaceful uses of outer space this morning, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had before it the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/59/20), which summarizes the outcome of the Committee’s forty-seventh session held in June in Vienna. Its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and Legal Subcommittee met in February and March, respectively. An annex provides the report of the working group regarding implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III). The Committee’s sessions addressed the need to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, taking into particular account the needs of developing countries.

    Through its work in the scientific, technical and legal fields, the Committee played a fundamental role in ensuring that outer space is maintained for peaceful purposes, the report says. That role could be strengthened by new initiatives, as well as continuing progress in implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The Committee noted with satisfaction the General Assembly’s agreement that the Committee could consider ways to promote regional and interregional cooperation based on experiences stemming from the Space Conferences of the Americas, and the role space technology could play in the implementation of recommendations emerging from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August to 4 September 2002). It agreed on the importance of considering the links between the Committee’s work and the major global development agendas.

    The Committee recommended that, at its forty-eighth session in 2005, it should continue its consideration of the agenda item entitled “Ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes”, as a priority. It agreed that a special event, entitled “Space to improve the human condition”, could be held at the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly to highlight the contribution of space to improving the wellbeing of humankind.

    According to the report, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee reported on several topics, including the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. The overall strategy for that Programme’s implementation would concentrate on a few priority areas for developing countries, establishing short- and medium-term objectives. Those priority areas were: disaster management; satellite communications for tele-education and telemedicine applications; monitoring and protection of the environment, including prevention of infectious diseases; management of natural resources; and education and capacity-building. Other areas that the Programme would promote included developing capacity in enabling technologies, such as the use of global navigation and positioning satellite systems; spin-offs of space technology; promoting youth participation in space activities; applications of small satellites and micro-satellites; and promoting private industry participation in the Programme’s activities.

    The report states that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee considered other areas of concern, including the International Space Information Service; regional and interregional cooperation; the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (COSPAS-SARSAT); and remote sensing of the Earth by satellite, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth’s environment. The implementation of an integrated, space-based global disaster management system; space debris; solar-terrestrial physics; the use of nuclear power sources in outer space; and the use of space technology for the medical sciences and public health were among the other issues considered.

    During the forty-third session of the Legal Subcommittee, that body reviewed the status and application of five United Nations treaties on outer space, the report says.  In that regard, it considered the status of the treaties, their implementation and obstacles to their universal acceptance and the promotion of space law, especially through the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. It also reviewed the implementation of the concept of the “launching State”, and noted with satisfaction that a draft resolution on the application of the concept of the “launching State” had been agreed upon in the Working Group on the Status and Application of the Five United Nations Treaties on Outer Space.  The Committee agreed that the treaties on outer space had established a framework that had encouraged the exploration of outer space and had benefited both space-faring and non-space-faring States.

    The report says that the Subcommittee also took up matters regarding the definition and delimitation of outer space and the character of the geostationary orbit, including ways to ensure its equitable use without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunications Union. It also considered the possible revision of the “Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space” and the examination of the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment -- opened for signature in Cape Town in 2001.

    In other matters discussed in the report, the Committee agreed that spin-offs from space technology should be promoted because they stimulated the economy through the creation of new and innovative technologies. Spin-offs also contributed to raising living standards through improvements in science and technology.

    During its consideration of the item “space and society”, the Committee held discussions on the theme of “Space in education and education in space”, the report says, adding that the Committee noted that data derived from outer space and services such as remote sensing and telecommunications were improving the lives of people throughout the world. Important applications of space technology included distance education, weather forecasting, disaster management, oceanography, archaeology and transport.

    According to the report, the Committee also took up a new agenda item entitled “Space and water”, noting that, in response to the deepening water crisis, space technology could contribute to improving water resource management by providing data on the availability of water resources and water use.

    Space-based data was also an important element in the promotion of international cooperation in water resource development and management.

    KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar), Chairman of the Fourth Committee, said the past year had seen exciting new developments in space exploration, with some countries indicating their intentions to return to the Moon, and opening the way for human flight to Mars, of which impressive photographs and evidence of water had been received.  The year had also marked the twentieth anniversary of the “Moon Agreement”, which called for the freedom of scientific exploration and the use of that body for the benefit of all mankind. The United Nations played a central role in establishing international space law, through treaties that stressed that space activity should be cooperative and aim toward the wellbeing of humankind. The peaceful uses of outer space could contribute to implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration, as well as declarations on sustainable development and the bridging of the information gap.

    Describing some of the fruits of international cooperation in space activities, he said they included the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue and the ad-hoc Group on Earth Observation, which would enable continuous monitoring of the state of the planet. The General Assembly would consider some of those advances next week during its five-year review of the implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, known as UNISPACE III. Introducing the Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, he expressed the hope that the Committee would continue to serve as the focal point for strengthening international cooperation in space activities.

    Introduction of Report

    ADIGUN ADE ABIODUN (Nigeria), Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said in introducing its report, that the Committee, established 45 years ago, had an excellent record in dealing with complex issues and in reaching agreement in spite of occasional diverging interests. The Committee counted among its accomplishments five United Nations treaties and five sets of legal principles, which had collectively established the international legal framework for space activities. It had also been instrumental in organizing three United Nations conferences on the exploration and peaceful use of outer space, the most recent one being UNISPACE III, held in 1999.

    He said that “The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, adopted by the Conference, included actions regarding:  protecting the Earth’s environment; supporting disaster management; promoting global health and education; protecting the space environment; and strengthening space activities in the United Nations system. Implementing those actions would contribute greatly to human development and welfare. The Action Teams, that the Committee had established under the voluntary leadership of governments to implement individual recommendation of UNISPACE III, were innovative mechanisms that allowed the participation of governmental and non-governmental entities while preserving the pivotal role of Member States.

    On the occasion of UNISPACE-plus-five-review by the General Assembly, the Office for Outer Space Affairs had organized a space-related exhibition to highlight the benefits that space technology applications brought down to Earth, he said. That exhibition was organized in the visitor’s lobby and in the passage of the Viennese Café.  The Committee was keen to continue its efforts in “bringing space technologies and their benefits to Earth”.

    Statements

    HOSSEIN MALEKI (Iran) said that international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space pursued two main goals: to promote the use of space technology in solving problems of a regional and global nature; and to further strengthen the capability of Member States, particularly developing countries, in the use of space-related technologies for economic, social and cultural development. The prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger for international peace and security, and the exploration of outer space should be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of countries. It was high time to make sure that outer space was free of an arms race.

    He said one of the initial mandates of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications established in 1971 was to assist people from developing countries to acquire the knowledge, skills and practical experience necessary for their application. However, many countries still lacked the human, technical and financial resources required to conduct even the most basic space-related activities.  Space science and technology could assist achieving satisfactory results in the efficient management of natural resources, particularly by water resources. Iran therefore strongly supported the proactive participation of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in global efforts for finding proper solutions to existing water problems, including water management in arid lands, water pollution monitoring, monitoring of wetlands and mitigation of the effects of extreme water-related events.

    Space technologies could also play an important role in risk assessment, mitigation and of preparedness in disaster management, he said. In order for developing countries to incorporate the use of space technology-based solutions, there was a need to increase awareness, build national capacities and develop solutions that were customized to the needs of the developing world. International cooperation in that regard was required. Iran strongly supported the establishment of an ad hoc expert group within the Committee to bring together the latest research in that regard, and urged Member States to make financial contributions towards its work before the end of the year.

    PAUL ROBERT TIENDREBEOGO (Burkina Faso) said that while many had long thought that issues of outer space were only of interest to a number of privileged countries that had access to space-technology, it had become clear that, because of the evolution of applications of space-technology applications, all countries were involved. Space-exploitation for military use during the cold war had yielded to a stated commitment to international cooperation. It was hoped that those intentions would become a reality.

    He said the developing countries had always insisted, not only that outer space be used for peaceful purposes, but also that its use would benefit all mankind, including States that had no space programmes. In that regard Burkina Faso emphasized regional and international cooperation for the strengthening of national capacities, citing as an example this year’s locust plague in Western Africa, during which the location of locust breeding sites had been difficult. Although Burkina Faso had been elected Vice-Chair/Rapporteur of the Committee, developing countries experienced real difficulties in participating in the Committee’s activities and needed measures to ensure better representation.

    YERZHAN KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) expressed satisfaction with the positive trends in the peaceful uses of outer space, noting that his country had quality space infrastructure, particularly by the world-famous launching pad of Baikonur that would continue to contribute to such progress. The State programme for the development of space projects, including those involving the use of space science and technology for environmental protection, should become one of the most important areas of space cooperation.

    He said that areas of environmental protection that were particularly important to Central Asia included airborne dissipation of salt from the Aral Sea region and the effects of nuclear testing, both of which required much more urgent international attention and multilateral cooperation. Kazakhstan endorsed the conclusion of the Space Committee’s report relating to remote sensing satellites, which could better monitor such situations.

    Kazakhstan recognized existing international treaties and norms related to the peaceful uses of outer space, he said, expressing hope that the review of progress in implementing UNISPACE III would give new impetus to international cooperation in those areas.

    QI DAHAI (China) said that with the rapid development of space technology the risk of the militarization of outer space had loomed larger. China supported all endeavours in the peaceful uses of outer space, but opposed militarization and called on the international community to intensify efforts to prevent it, including through the establishment of a comprehensive legal mechanism.

    He said that the draft resolution on the application of the concept of the “Launching State” was valuable as it would help countries apply space treaties to their activities and was conducive to the study of practices in on-orbit transfer of ownership of space objects. China welcomed the establishment of the working group on the protocol on matters specific to space assets.  In order for the financing mechanisms set forth in that protocol to play an active role in promoting space activities within the existing framework of space law, it should clearly and explicitly provide that it would not prejudice the rights and obligations of countries under space treaties.

    China had worked actively with Canada and France on disaster mitigation and would make a comprehensive presentation of that activity and others it had undertaken in implementing UNISPACE III to the General Assembly next week, he said. China’s achievements, international exchanges and cooperation in space activities included the launch of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou 5, which had carried a United Nations flag on board, as well as international science workshops and training courses held in the country.

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